Council looks to raise £1m from empty homes

Council tax bills could be doubled for empty houses across Argyll and Bute, raising  £1m a year.

New legislation means councils can levy the charge far more for properties which have been unoccupied for more than 12 months.

About 3% of all houses in Argyll and Bute are thought to be lying unoccupied, says a report by executive director of customer services Douglas Hendry – that figure excludes holiday homes.

He states: “Overall our best estimate of the potential increase in council tax income is £1.2m of which about £1.1m should be collectable.

“It is however expected that the additional income could vary from as little as £0.7m to as much as £1.55m.”

Some homeowners are expected to sell or let their properties to avoid the extra charge, with others making them available for self-catering lets or using them as holiday homes.

The report adds: “Whilst these behaviours will reduce the income to the council, they will directly benefit the economy of the area and reduce the number of long term empty properties which are in a poor condition and a target for vandals.

“Owners will have more of an incentive to work with the council’s empty homes officer to help bring these properties back into use.”

If councillors agree the new policy at their meeting in Lochgilphead on Thursday officials will write to all of the owners who may be affected.

There would be a civil penalty of £500 for deliberately giving inaccurate information or failing to provide it.